We have launched our #CervicalScreeningRedTape campaign to highlight the fact that many disabled women are finding it difficult to access a smear test. Please watch our campaign video before reading this article.
- Disabled women not being offered cervical screening as it is assumed that they are not sexually active and are less likely to need a test.
- Physical barriers such as a lack of non-adjustable beds in GP surgeries.
- Fear. Due to a previously negative experience or a self-consciousness as their body may differ to what they believe the medical staff are used to seeing.
- Expense. Often disabled women have to travel further than their local surgery to an accessible clinic.
What can be done to improve access to smear tests for disabled women? We’ve compiled four solutions below.
- Recognise that disabled adults can enjoy an active sex life and offer as standard cervical screening and sexual health tests.
- Ask what an individual’s needs are. If your surgery does not have accessible facilities that meet the needs of a disabled patient, then have a procedure in place where you can offer an alternative location. This saves both you and the disabled woman a lot of time and effort phoning around. Read Emily’s blog for a real-life experience.
- Realise that standard procedures won’t work for everyone. For example, due to physicality it may be easier for a woman to have a smear lying on her side rather than on her back. We are all different, and often know our bodies well so if it’s feasible to do things differently, be willing to give it a try.
- Fear. Most women are apprehensive about having a smear test but for many disabled women there is an extra layer of nervousness. Reassurance prior to the test being booked can help alleviate this fear.
We fully appreciate the challenges our NHS is facing during the pandemic and know that wait times may be longer than usual, however we hope our solutions can become best practice.
Dr Larissa Corda and Sam Renke are guests on Episode 2 of our Undressing Disability podcast. Joined by our CEO Jennie Williams they share personal experiences of the issues around accessing cervical screening raised in this #CervicalScreeningRedTape campaign.
Cervical Screening and Deaf Awareness – Claire’s experience as a deaf woman and what can be done to improve access and communication.
Accessing a Smear Test as a Wheelchair User – Emily wrote about trying to access her first ever smear test in this blog article.
Last year we launched our Undressing Disability Hub which is free to join. It is full of free resources on topics relating to sex and disability. Members include professionals working in the fields of medicine, psychology, and care homes. As well as sex educators and those searching for a safe network to learn and share information on the topic of sex and disability.
Worried about Cervical Screening?
Jo’s Trust is a charity which provides information and support on the topic of Cervical Cancer. Their website https://www.jostrust.org.uk/ is full of valuable insight and they do an incredible job raising awareness and saving lives with their work.